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Considering Stormwater Management in Site Plan Review

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Volunteers serving on planning, zoning and related commissions (such as wetland or conservation commissions) routinely review site plans to determine compliance of proposed development with land use regulations. A major consideration of this site plan review should be the proposed development’s impact on water resources, particularly from polluted stormwater runoff, or “nonpoint source pollution.”

Traditionally, stormwater management has emphasized water quantity, with little concern for water quality. To address both of these factors in a comprehensive manner, each site plan should contain a stormwater management plan that details the impact of proposed land use on water quantity and quality, both on-site and within the watershed. While the detailed engineering is best left to trained professionals, land use commissioners can review plans for compliance with general planning guidelines.

The Need for Stormwater Management in a Watershed Framework

Volunteers on a NEMO  committee in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.
Volunteers on a NEMO committee in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

When water falls to earth as rain or snow most of it seeps into the ground. However, if the ground is saturated, frozen, or covered with impervious surfaces, excess precipitation flows over the land.

Stormwater management is the process of controlling and cleansing excess runoff so it does not harm natural resources or human health.

A major focus of stormwater management should be prevention of nonpoint source water pollution. It is more cost-effective to prevent flooding and water pollution than to correct problems after damage has occurred.

Potential Impact of Development on Water Resources

Development may disturb land and create impervious surfaces such as roads, rooftops, and compacted soil that in turn drastically change natural drainage patterns. During construction, existing grades and vegetation can be damaged, resulting in soil erosion. Runoff from these areas can pollute streams. Development, through increases in impervious surfaces and installation of storm sewers, speeds movement of concentrated pollutants off-site and interferes with water infiltration to the ground.

End of excerpt … article continues with section on the contents of a stormwater management plan; and principles and planning guideline to strive for in stormwater management. Article also includes a sidebar explaining nonpoint pollution.

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